DIY : In Praise of Small Spaces – Christina M. Spiker – Medium
I am a lover of tiny, small, intimate spaces.
If you left me in a large mansion with hallways upon hallways of rooms, each with a dedicated purpose, I would be completely lost. I would wander them for a while before choosing one or two rooms where I would spend 95% of my time. Big, vacuous living spaces make me uncomfortable, even if I drool over them on Home & Garden TV.
I’m not entirely sure how I turned out like this. Probably one too many years of apartment living? Perhaps learning to live with the frugality of graduate school? The frequent mobility of my life and inability to set down roots? An underlying fear of being alone?
Even when I lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment connected to my university campus back in 2008, I eventually had to move my desk from the bedroom into the main living area, so that I didn’t feel disconnected from the center of action. They were no more than 10 feet apart, but the distance created by the wall felt like miles. As someone who was working “all the time,” I needed to be a part of the life that existed beyond my doctoral dissertation. I needed an audience who could hold me accountable while offering an escape, even if that audience consisted mostly of my partner and my pets…
The Little Room
“I want to transform the ‘little room’ into a game room. You aren’t using it as an office. And if we set games up in there, we can protect them from the cat…”
My husband’s comment about the “little room” made me think about my relationship to space in our apartment. The room is our spare bedroom — one that is so small that I’m not sure that it legally qualifies. When we first moved in, I mused about how wonderful it would be to have an office in the home. I feel like home offices are the stuff that professors’ dreams are made from. I envisioned a calm and comforting place to work free from distraction with a steady stream of natural light. A perfect sanctuary of writing and productivity out of an IKEA catalog. It seemed to signify an essential transition into professional adulthood.
So why did I find myself sitting cross-legged on the so-comfortable-it-is-a-little-uncomfortable couch tapping away on my precariously balanced iPad every time I had to meet a deadline?
I think part of the issue is that a space that is distraction-free is… well… distracting. I’m inside my own head. A lot. And I don’t particularly love the time spent alone with myself. When I have total peace and quiet, I find it hard to shut myself up and get to work. Juggling my grading and research on my lap somehow seemed preferable than using the desk custom built for the task. I’m at a desk for most of my work day, and I certainly didn’t want to be strapped to one when I got home.
But I think the real reason that I refuse to work in the little room is that I want to feel connected to my home and those who live inside. I want to be part of that fabric. I think it speaks to the reason why open-concept living spaces are all the rage — we don’t need walls to separate and compartmentalize our conversations. And the bedroom is only a few steps away should I need time alone.
Reclaiming Our Spaces
So now we are going about the business of “reclaiming” our little room as a space of play. We are moving out the desks and computers to focus on time spent together and with friends. We envision a room where we can play table-top games without the fear of our feline child running off with plastic pieces. Because she would probably do that… And then swallow the evidence.
There is something energizing about taking back the little room. We are making our home into what we want as opposed to fulfilling others’ expectations about what we need. And it has become abundantly clear that we don’t need that much in order to be happy.
We are planning a square table in the middle of the room with four chairs around it for company. And a small side table to hold snacks and drinks. The central table that we are going to use is one of the few items remaining from the first apartment we lived in together in 2008. That apartment was half of the size of our current place — tiny by American standards. But it was intimate, and it was home. And as small as it was, I still felt the need to be closer.